First virtual edition of festival recreates 1947 painting
The first virtual I Madonnari chalk art festival was a success, albeit secluded from the public.
The festival’s last day should have been a celebration of art at the Santa Barbara Mission. Instead, artists Sharyn Chan, Ann Hefferman and Jay Schwartz finished the event’s featured painting on Monday in the quiet calm of an undisclosed site off Alameda Padre Serra. The secluded spot overlooked Santa Barbara.
Kathy Koury, the executive director of the Children’s Creative Project, created the I Madonnari Street Painting Festival in 1987. The event raises funds for the project’s arts education programs.
Ms. Koury’s idea has inspired more than 100 similar street painting festivals in the U.S., Canada and Central and South America.
This year, the feature painting was a chalk pastel rendition of Thomas Hart Benton’s 1947 painting “Achelous and Hercules.”
The painting features the Greek god Achelous, in the form of a bull, wrestling with mythic hero Hercules.
Ms. Koury said she chose “Achelous and Hercules” for the featured piece because it is an uplifting celebration of American workers.
“We wanted to do something American, with an American artist. Something that reflected strength and abundance,” added Ms. Hefferman.
“Lushness of color, smoothness and the movement in it are inspiring,” Ms. Hefferman said.
This year’s painting is one of I Madonnari’s largest ever at 12 feet by 50 feet.
Ms. Hefferman said the artists started working on Thursday and paced themselves through 10-hour days of painting. Normally, the artists use chalk pastel directly on the pavement at the mission, but this year they used a base layer of water-based tempera paint on the work surface.
“The mission’s surface is so good you don’t have to put down the tempera, but here if we don’t we have a lot of speckle,” Ms. Chan said.
“It’s very liberating to be able to move your arms and make a long stroke,” she said of the chalk pastel medium.
Ms. Hefferman said chalk is forgiving because you can wipe off the chalk when you make a mistake. “The color blending abilities are really fantastic, and the large format allows you to really get a lot of detail in.”
Mr. Schwartz said chalk pastel is applied in a similar way to painting as he used a gloved hand to rub the material into a section of the painting.
“It’s kind of like finger painting for adults,” said Ms. Chan.
Mr. Schwartz has been painting at I Madonnari for 28 years. Ms. Hefferman has participated for 26 years, and Ms. Chan has participated for 19 years.
“Every year it’s a reunion of friends that we haven’t seen, some in a year. We’ve made tremendous friendships all over the country and out of the country. Although it’s nice and peaceful up here, we miss the smell of the cooking and the music and the people. It’s a great community event that brings everyone together,” Ms. Hefferman said.
The artists finished the painting at 6 p.m. on Monday. It can be viewed at ccp.sbceo.org/i-madonnari/welcome.